Tarantino is often considered a unique director. His style is certainly recognisable and many have thought it very good. I myself cannot claim to be an expert on the director’s work, but did enjoy Pulp Fiction. It wasn’t perfect, the middle part was over stretched, but I liked the conversational style of the movie. It managed to be both laid back and deep in places, which is my kind of film.
I heard about Inglourious, or Inglourious Basterds to give it its full grammatically incorrect title, a while before it was being made. As was the case with Pulp Fiction, I read the script before seeing the film. The reason I read this is that I heard he was having difficulty getting it made, but many people rated the script. On a read through, I cannot say I was a fan.
———BEWARE, HERE BE SPOILERS——–
The film has absolute no regard for what actually happened with regard to historical accuracy. The Nazis are just being used as a typical bad guy organisation. The deviation from fact extends to the point where at the climax of the film, Hitler is killed in a Parisian cinema. This will never be described as a subtle film which is considerate to all those who lost their lives.
The film follows the story of Shoshanna, a Jewish girl whose family is killed by Col. Hans Landa (“The Jew Hunter”). The film builds up to a premiere of a new German film at the cinema she escaped to where she is joined by Adolf, Goebbels and the American Nazi killers, the titular Basterds, who are planning to kill the Führer.
The main attraction, and the thing that almost everyone who saw it is raving about, is the performance of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa that stands out. On reading the script, his character came across as hammy and clichéd but the performance adds a sincerity that was lacking on the page. The opening scene introduces him perfectly as an over the top perfectionist full of self confidence. Out of all the characters in the film, this is the only one who changes at all during the film and progresses.
The main character, Shoshanna, is intended to be the heroine, as she gains our sympathies very early on. She did not manage to keep mine for long however, as it becomes apparent she is a very capable of defending herself. She came across as quite hardened by her experiences and understandably so. This does, however, make her very hard to love.
Shoshanna becomes increasingly vengeful and while this is exciting to watch, it’s not very comfortable viewing. We all have images of the heroes of the Second World War being patriotic and pure, but this film rips that idea apart. The winners here fight dirty and are happy bending their morals to those exhibited by their foes. It leaves a very clear impression of what we could have achieved if we had been as ruthless as the Nazi’s were; whether we should have or not is another question.
The titular basterds are those meant to draw the crowd, as the lead member is played by Brad Pitt. He does a very good job of making the character fun to watch, employing an accent that is quite out of character. He does however not have a major role as the trailers suggest which after seeing the film, I can tell you are extremely inaccurate. The trailers give no indication of how much of the film is not in English, something I applaud Tarantino for doing. It is also not quite as strong an action film as the footage shown suggests, but is probably better classed as a thriller.
The reason I say that is that although there is some action and the film appears to build to these scenes, it’s in the build up of tension that Tarantino really shines. The opening I’ve already mentioned is superb, as are several other scenes with enemies just talking. The dialogue between characters who are hiding and those searching them out are just sublime. The use of silence, tone and pacing through these scenes is exquisite and it actually made me feel annoyed when the action started, as that felt flat in comparison.
This film’s title is the most accurate description of it I can think of. It shows that war can transform us all into horrible people, willing to do anything to overcome the enemy. It is a black comedy that if you’re in the mood, is quite well done. It offers no hope for those who wish to try to be virtuous and pure, as they almost certainly shown to die here.
It did remind me of how in Ephesians 6, we are described as being in a spiritual war. Often we can be tempted to use the Enemy’s tactics to win a moral victory, such as telling a white lie to not hurt someone’s feelings. If anything, this film shows that this will only lead to things spiralling out of control.
I believe that the reason why we revere the heroes of WWII is that they were the exact opposite of the characters in this film. We honour them because they were willing to do things honourably, even if it was the harder way and for many meant losing their lives. I think that we should respect their fine example and at least try to live up to the high standard that they have set.
On that note, I can recommend it is a fine reminder of how great the victory we won was. It may have taken longer than it did in this film and been less spectacular, but it was just. I fully expected to dislike this film, but have been reminded once again that it is our own way of looking at the thing that affects our perception of it. If you have a different view, please comment below.